This morning, as I left the cabin cloaked in a tasseled cap, heavy coat, and my favorite mittens worn thin with a budding hole in the right thumb, the cloudless sky above was azure, a rare sight in these parts in February. The air was so crisp, it was like a freshly picked apple, you know the kind you search the grocery store for but seldom find.
I breathed my way on the trail through our mountain woods, Heidi, our dog-child, running ahead following the scent of an overnight visitor. As I walked, my thoughts navigated memories long forgotten, or so I believed. Suddenly, I was a little girl wandering alone through the woods near my childhood home. That gangly freckle-faced child was planting Nasturtiums from a seed packet that had arrived unsolicited in the mail the day before. My secret garden was by a stream which I had spent the previous afternoon dutifully lining with round, moss covered stones. Only now do I realize that, given the lack of mid-twentieth century building codes in rural Pennsylvania, the trickling water was most likely sewage seeping from the house up the hill.
My thoughts moved forward in time to my early days at college in North-Central Pennsylvania. Unbeknownst to me, my high-school boyfriend made the decision to follow me there. No, he wasn’t a student. He had already dropped out of a Midwest university, but he sang a good tune as to how he just couldn’t live without me. I remember the autumn leaves blanketing the cemetery crunching beneath my shoes as we walked hand-in-hand past lives remembered in granite. The air was thick with the musty fragrance of decay. His choice of places to drop to one knee and propose should have been a warning. But no. I was young, naïve, with a diamond ring glittering in front of my face. As if that wasn’t enough, he had a car! Getting around the mountainous town was no easy feat.
Okay, okay. College could wait. I finished out my first semester and rushed home at Christmas to tell my parents I wasn’t going back. I had a wedding to plan! They enlisted my grandmother and several aunts to try to talk me out of it, but my path was set. We were wed when he returned from six weeks of Airforce Basic Training. I knew the day after our wedding when he left me with folks I had never met before in Pittsburgh so he could go out with the “guys,” that I had made a terrible mistake. However, the words, “for better or worse, richer or poorer, til death do us part,” still resonated on my lips. Vows!! Naive!! Four years later, I was divorced with a child to support. Thank God I had long legs and could type!
The world has changed a lot since those days. I wonder if young girls have their heads in the clouds as much as I did then. Maybe I should say we did. Between typing and Home-EC classes, we were pretty much set upon a path of domesticity in rural Pennsylvania. Not that I think being a wife, mother, and homemaker lacks value. Just the opposite. In a perfect world, which I obviously did not have in my first marriage, what working person wouldn’t want to come home to June and Ward Cleaver’s “Leave it to Beaver,” perfect house, the evening meal warming in the oven?
Heidi’s barking as the cabin, chimney exhaling wood smoke into the air, came into view and interrupted my trip down memory lane. I’ll leave you dear readers with several questions to ponder: Were Cleaver families as perfect as portrayed on those small black and white television screens? Or, were the self-sacrifices, if you see them as that, made by the Junes of that era festering just beneath the surface? Would you choose to go back in time if you could?
Have a wonderful day.